By Peter Fowoyo

Five telecommunications firms have been restrained by a Federal High Court, Lagos from suspending the campaign fund-raising platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

APC
APC

Justice Ibrahim Buba made an order of interim injunction on Wednesday restraining Etisalat, MTN, Glo, Airtel and Visafone from giving effect to a directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which prevented them from running political promotions that would portray them as being partisan.

The court made the ex-parte order following the party’s motion and ordered the firms “to continue to run, operate and/or restore to its full operative use the SMS Code platform 35350 created for fund-raising for the applicant’s presidential campaign.”

The orders subsist pending the hearing and determination of APC’s originating motion on notice.

The court also granted APC leave to serve the originating motion on notice and other processes on NCC (the first defendant) outside the court’s jurisdiction.

APC said the platform was to operate until?February 12?when campaign activities for the presidential election would stop, in line with the Electoral Act and the election time-table.

In the originating motion, APC is demanding N25billion damages from the defendants for violating the fundamental rights of the party and its members.

It said since the platform was suspended, it had been unable to disseminate or receive information from its supporters via the SMS code 35350.

The party said while the platform was suspended, NCC allowed that of President Goodluck Jonathan to run without a glitch adding that it created a “premium SMS code 35350” through which willing donors could contribute to its presidential campaign fund.

Within hours of its creation, APC claimed it was getting about five messages at N100 each per minute. ?A total of 5,400 messages were received?, it said.

However, NCC, in a January 19, 2015 letter, directed all telecoms service providers “to avoid running political advertisements that will portray them as being partisan?, adding that it would “not hesitate to sanction any service provider that flouts this directive?, consequently, the telecoms firms suspended the platform.

The APC, however, said political parties have been using several media platforms to advertise, with none accused of being partisan.

Besides, the applicant said NCC approved the short codes 6661, 6662, 6663 and 6664 for the the Goodluck-Sambo Presidential Campaign fund raising while its platform was unjustly suspended, its members, supporters, sympathisers and others who wished to donate towards its presidential campaign were “incapacitated.”

The party also said the suspension of the code inhibited its financial capacity to effectively prosecute its presidential campaign.

APC said NCC’s directive contravenes its right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution.

“The purported directive of the first respondent (NCC) discriminated against the applicant’s (APC) members since the first respondent granted the approval for the use of short codes to raise funds for Goodluck-Sambo presidential campaign?” APC said.

The party is asking the court to declare that the NCC’s directive violates its guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

Specifically, APC sought the court for a declaration that the directive was discriminatory against its members, NCC having granted similar rights to the Goodluck/Sambo campaign.

The political party also sought the court for a declaration that the NCC directive is?ultra vires?and contrary to Sections 39 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution.

The party sought for an order invalidating the directive, and a perpetual injunction restraining NCC or its agents from stopping the firms from operating the SMS code fund-raising platform.

APC also wants the court to restrain the firms from giving effect to the directive or disrupting the smooth running of the SMS platform.

Justice Buba adjourned hearing of the originating motion on notice till?February 4, 2015.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.